Friday, July 23, 2010

Forgotten Books: Malay Woman - A.S. Fleischman

Once again I’m cheating a little bit with this Forgotten Book, since the Stark House edition of it will be out next month (paired with another A.S. Fleischman novel, DANGER IN PARADISE), but for now it’s a 1954 Gold Medal that’s never been reprinted, and it’s certainly a novel that deserves to be remembered and, more importantly, read.


This is the first A.S. Fleischman novel I’ve read. He doesn’t waste any time dropping the reader right into the middle of the action. The narrator, Jock Hamilton, is an American running a rubber plantation in Sumatra, and as the book opens, he’s already on the run for the murder of his wife, who he appears to have killed in a drunken black-out because of her habit of cheating on him. Jock himself doesn’t know whether or not he’s guilty, but he’s trying to avoid the cops anyway. He heads for the plantation of an old friend of his who has a rubber plantation in Malaya. On the boat heading upriver, he becomes involved with a beautiful Australian widow who has a couple of professional killers after her. She claims to have no idea who could want her dead, but she accepts Jock’s help in getting away from them. Then, arriving at the plantation, Jock finds his old friend married, and the friend’s beautiful wife has a straying eye that lands solidly on Jock. There’s also the matter of Communists insurgents who have targeted the foreign-owned plantations.


Well, with all these complications, you know Fleischman is going to keep the action perking along nicely, and MALAY WOMAN doesn’t disappoint in that respect or any other. The writing is fast and hardboiled, and the local color is handled very nicely. There are plenty of details, but the book never gets bogged down in them and they don’t get in the way of the action. Jock is one of a long line of Gold Medal heroes who are likable but not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, and even though he’s a little dense about what’s really going on, you can’t help but root for him. All of it leads up to an action-packed and very satisfying ending.


As I mentioned, MALAY WOMAN is about to be reprinted by Stark House. If you like hardboiled mystery/adventure novels, do yourself a favor and pick up this latest double volume, which also includes the usual excellent introduction by David Laurence Wilson and a brief intro by A.S. Fleischman himself, who penned it before he passed away earlier this year. Highly recommended – and I’ll probably be posting about the other half of the book before too much longer.

10 comments:

RJR said...

I've read and enjoyed The Venetian Blonde, and I have Look Behind You, lady.

RJR

Todd Mason said...

I'm too tired to remember if it was Bill Crider or Ed Gorman who also recommended this highly not too long ago...I will almost certainly be floating a few bucks toward the new edition soonly.

Cullen Gallagher said...

I picked up this GM last month and really enjoyed it, as well. I was planning on reviewing it as well, but I'm waiting until I read the other book in the Stark House collection (which I also just got). I thought the setting was really vivid and unusual, it made the book very unique.

pattinase (abbott) said...

So nice to see it's going to be reprinted.

Bill Crider said...

Todd, I did a Forgotten Books post on this one a while back. I really enjoy Fleischman's work.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I thought I remembered that cover and title! Twice is great.

Frank Loose said...

I read this a year or so ago and loved it. If it was an old B/W movie, it would be pretty easy to picture a young Robert Mitchum playing the lead. It's that kinda book.

Cullen Gallagher said...

You're right, Frank, Mitchum would have been perfect in this. If only...

George said...

I buy everything STARK HOUSE publishes. Great stuff!

P.M. said...

I buy a lot of old Gold Medals, but I've never noticed this one. Thanks for the review. Added to my long list . . .